The power lunch is back, and Solstice is the new reigning hot spot.
Solstice is that long-awaited restaurant in the Boardwalk, which, if you haven’t noticed, is the fanciest office building to open in the Irvine Business Complex in years. This neighborhood has long been the epicenter of the O.C. power lunch.
The restaurant is very elegant, a cosmopolitan loft-style aesthetic with reams of natural light. It’s swarming with people who look like lawyers, accountants, bankers, architects and whatnot, mostly dressed in typical C-suite business attire. It also looks like a few people are here merely because they can be, with little else to do but sip colorful cocktails at lunchtime. I enjoy pretending that I belong in that crowd. It’s barely half past noon, and I’m already on my second cocktail. I’m woefully out of practice.
The chef is Brittany Valles, who was just beginning to make a name for herself at Oak Grill inside the Fashion Island Hotel when that place abruptly closed awhile ago. She’s back on track here. The steak frites is an elegant presentation of filet mignon and very thick-cut fries, which are really more like logs than frites.
The burger is fantastic, but the real power move here is the PBLT, which is like a BLT sandwich on steroids. It’s made with inch-thick pork belly, tomato jam, honey-bacon aioli and ultra-buttery sourdough toast. With every bite (alternated with a sip of a tequila cocktail) I wonder if this will to be the moment where I die of a heart attack. It is not. And the fries that come with this sandwich are even better than the potatoes that come with the steak. Thinner, twice-cooked, perfection.
The crab cakes are superb, although I almost choked on the mustard sauce that comes alongside. The mustard is too sharp, too sour, like a ramekin of smelling salts. The crab is obviously very high quality but the flavor is completely overwhelmed by that sauce, which is almost hallucinogenic. I desperately want to order these crab cakes again, but I really can’t suffer that head rush again.
Still, there’s a lot to like here, including a very modern riff on mussels Rockefeller and a whimsical twist on deviled eggs. At dinnertime (but sadly not at lunch), the wine-braised wagyu short rib arrives under a smoke-filled cloche, and it is delicious.
The drinks flow all day. And the gin and tonic is excellent.
Where: 18555 Jamboree Rd., Irvine
When: Lunch, Mondays-Fridays; dinner nightly; brunch Sundays